Are You Feeling Your Feelings?
Of course we can all mention times when we were irritated or nervous or overjoyed or overwhelmed... But did we really FEEL it? Or did we "sense" it and act quickly to distract, shut down, and ignore it? Well, lets think of what we did when the feelings came - Another glass of wine? Few cookies? Online shopping spree? Another nap? The possibilities are endless, because we are so good at NOT feeling our feelings.
Today we talk about a specific way to allow for our feelings - - - to honor their existence. Because they don't go away when we work to ignore them. They wait for their next opportunity. In today's episode, we discuss how to Name, Explain, and Sit with our feelings so they feel like they've had their 15 minutes of fame. That's all they want - acknowledgment. Not even to be fixed. Just to be seen and heard. Tune in to hear about giving the stage to your feelings, letting them shine, and then letting them make their own exit.
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So, the title of today’s episode is a question. Let me pose it to you now…
Are you feeling your feelings?
Yes! We all just said. I surely am! I can’t tell you how irritated I was yesterday at the grocery store. I was so happy to see my grandchild last weekend. I was so nervous as my kid took their driver’s test last month. Of course, I’m feeling my feelings. I feel my feels every day!
Wonderful! That’s great news. Can I ask you another question? What did you do right before? Or right after? Or during?
Did you have a smoke? Have a glass of wine? A beer? Scroll endlessly through social media? Do a little shopping? Hit the online slots? Eat a cookie or 12? Hit the drive through for another coffee?
Because yes, we all have feelings? But are we really letting ourselves FEEL our FEELINGS? I think it’s a fair question. Because if the answer truly was YES, where are all these other actions, reactions, and behaviors coming from? Why do we have certain habits that pop into gear as soon as certain feelings come, if we are really letting ourselves feel them?
Because these things we DO, when we are trying to FEEL, seems to act more like a buffer, or a distraction, or a comfort.
Am I wrong? Are you always eating just because you are hungry? Or are you bored and don’t like the feeling of bored? Are you having a glass of wine because you can’t get enough of that oaky taste? Or are you overwhelmed and don’t want to feel it? Did you need another pair of shoes? Or are your feelings hurt and you know what makes you feel good? Shoes. Shoes feel good. Did you have the extra money to spend at the slots? Or are you nervous about a meeting you have tomorrow with your boss… and you just can’t deal with anxiety tonight?
We all have something we do to not feel our feelings. Some of us are further along in a journey of trying to let ourselves feel them. And some of us have never thought of what we are talking about today. Either way, it’s a topic worth discussing. Because you are worth the health that comes from allowing that.
In his book titled, Inward, Yung Pueblo says “Before I could release the weight of my sadness and pain, I first had to honor its existence”.
And I love that quote so much. In one sentence, it sums up the importance of feeling our feelings, for the sake of healing, for the sake of freedom from the weight of them, and for the value of honoring the fact that they exist at all.
It’s beautiful in my mind. And it helps me take the thought of hard feelings just being painfully uncomfortable, and shifts it to a place of being precious, just because they are mine… no matter what they are.
They came for a reason, they deserve to be seen and heard and felt, and then they will make their way to their place in my life. Either a part of my story past, a part of who I am and how I think and feel, or a piece that I want to hold and bring with me for as long as I can.
Because we are not just talking about negative feelings here. We are talking about all feelings. Maybe you don’t have this experience, but some people do so we are going to talk about it… Some people do not even allow for the good feelings – the positive ones. And there are reasons for that.
It may be that they don’t believe they deserve them. It may be that they don’t want them… because allowing a good feeling makes the bad ones feel even worse when they do return. Because they do. They always will.
Sometimes its that they can’t. They’ve worked so hard to not feel the bad ones, that they have become successful in not feeling at all. And if you can’t feel to feel the bad, you can’t feel to feel the good either. Numb is numb.
And even when this is pointed out, they believe this to be the safest way to go about life, when it comes to feelings.
But like Yung Pueblo alludes, this causes a weight of sadness and pain. Which are feelings. Hard feelings. That no matter what you do, won’t go away until you feel them. So, whatever your reaction is to avoid the feelings, must be repeated over and over and over.
Don’t believe me? Think about your go-to habit that you keep returning to. When do you do it most? For what reason? What is the pattern? Is it always after a hard day at work? Is it right before a family get together? Is it every time you argue with your partner? Is it right before you have to go into a crowded room? When you come out of the crowded room?
No, I haven’t been spying you. But I have been doing this thing called life just like you have. And I fall into the same habits over and over, for the same reasons each time. And when I stop to think about it, it is to avoid the feelings that are trying to be acknowledged.
So here I am. Admitting that I need to do better in this area. And here you are, being drug along for the ride. No, I’m not forcing you to hop on my journey, but I am inviting you to maybe take a look at your self here and see if there is anything that resonates as possible truth for you too.
Because here’s the truth. We need to feel our feelings. We are healthier for it, and it allows us to be happier too. And who is opposed to being happier and healthier. It’s what we want. It’s what we want for our loved ones. And its what we all deserve.
So, say we catch ourselves in our next behavioral attempt to avoid our feeling of the moment and we just sat still. We let the feeling come. We let it onto the stage, instead of shoving it backstage in a closet somewhere. Instead of letting our credit card, or wine glass, or bag of chips take the stage, we pulled back the curtain and invited the feeling right up into the spotlight.
Well, here it is. What do we do with it now? The first thing we need to do is address it. By name.
Yep, we need to identify and name that feeling.
This sounds easy enough, doesn’t it? I’m telling you though if you have spent years locking feelings backstage, you might find them unrecognizable, no idea what their name is.
Sit with it a bit more then. And here’s some advice you won’t hear often from a therapist… google it! And by that, I mean nothing more than a list of names for emotions.
My goodness please don’t google your mental health symptoms and get diagnosed by a .com. We already have too much in this world that can cause you trauma without the internet telling you that you are a delusional narcissistic psychopath.
But go ahead and google names for emotions. Scan the list and elaborate your vocabulary to match more specifically with what’s going on inside you.
That’s a good thing. Little kids start off knowing that they feel good, or they feel bad. Then they add happy and sad. And they add hungry and tired.
As we grow and develop, it’s good for us to also expand our names for feelings, emotions, and sensations.
Once you name your feeling, it’s time to explain it. Really study it there on stage and explain it. Where in your body can you feel it? What does it feel like? Is it hot or cold? Does it move? Does it have a speed – fast or slow? Does it feel like thumping, or a vibration, a scratchiness maybe? Does it have a texture? Does it have a colour? A sound – loud, or a whisper?
And some of those questions might sound crazy to you. It’s a feeling Tina, not an art gallery. Not a production or a musical. I know, but it is all those things too. And the more you can explain it, the more you can manage it. Because all of a sudden, it isn’t mysterious and scary. It’s known. In all it’s details it is known. Exposed. And it can become familiar now that it is known. And familiar is always more comfortable.
But it’s a unique explanation for each of us. There is no right or wrong… it’s a personal experience. Sometimes we ask our clients to draw the feeling we are talking about. And if you didn’t think your feeling had a colour, you’d be amazed at how important it is to pick the right colour to draw it with.
For instance, someone might pick up the black to draw their anxiety. Because the black seems scary, and anxiety is scary to feel.
I happen to be soothed by the colour black. It feels like a heavy blanket. And heavy blankets feel like safety and security for me.
But for other people who think of bright colors when they feel happiness, for me, anxiety is a tie dye t-shirt in bright colors. The brightness and the tie dye design to mean looks like chaos and lack of order… which would be anxiety provoking.
And I’m not wrong. Ask my husband. I’m never wrong… seriously though, I’m not wrong and either is the person with a completely different experience than I have. Because it is personal. And that’s why only you can sit with your feelings and identify them and explain them. You can sit with someone. But they could never do it for you.
And once you have let them on stage, named them and explained them, you’re going to let them perform for you. Just let them express themselves to you. Let them know be what they are. Don’t rush them off. Don’t close them down. Don’t push them out of the spotlight. Let them shine for a bit.
Take a deep breath. Honor their existence.
You might want to invite them to go shopping with you. Or out for a beer. Or to an ice cream joint. You might want to step outside and have a smoke with them, take them to the casino, or take a selfie with them for Facebook.
But this is their moment. Just sit. Let them have the stage.
You’re gonna want to yell at them, asking what do you want from me? Hoping they say something like a new pair of shoes. Or a glass of wine. Or French fries.
But all they want is your acknowledgement. And validation. That they exist. They are real. They want to be heard and seen.
They want to be felt.
Your feelings just want you to feel them. That’s all they’re asking for. They aren’t even asking you to fix them. Just feel.
It’s not that your distractions don’t work. They do. They work well. Too well. Your distractions can kick your emotions off stage quickly. But they can’t make them go away. You can lock them in a closet backstage… but they will keep banging on the door. And the louder the bang, the more you have to repeat your habits to distract.
And when the wine is gone, the money is gone, the energy is spent, the smoke is done, and the food has been eaten… the feeling is still right there. Banging on the door.
And it is getting crowded in that closet. Cause now guilt and shame is in there too.
Cause you said you knew you needed to shop less, spend less, relax more, drink less, stop smoking, eat healthier.
But it sounds easy enough, doesn’t it? To just stop and feel our feelings. Name it, explain it, breathe, and let it be what it is for a bit.
It is easy. It’s as easy as driving a manual car in Canada for years and years and then jumping into a manual car in England to go for a drive. Easy peasy! You know how to drive stick. Except now the steering wheel is on the other side of the car. So is the brake and clutch and gas pedal. At least the gear shifter is still in the middle. Oh, but now you have to use your other hand and arm.
Well, maybe it’s not easy. It’s possible. But it’s all new again. So, you’ll need to re-learn how to do it a new way.
You’ve been driving from the other side of the car for years. It became second nature. Almost instinctual. You just got in and started the car and off you went. Shifting as needed. Practically without thought.
And here you are now. Paused at the hood of the car. Focusing first as which door to go to. And then you get in. And you just sit for a moment. You sit and you acknowledge that this is all different and uncomfortable.
Next you look around and get your bearings. You figure out where the temperature controls are, the radio, the turn signals, windshield wipers, the lights. You reach over to the gear shifter and see how that feels in your unfamiliar hand. You might even make the gestures of shifting to see what that’s like for you. You adjust the seat and mirrors. You see how your body feels in the position you’re in.
And once you feel like you’ve got acquainted with this newness, you take a deep breath, and you start the car.
And you might stall it. It might not be the smoothest ride you’ve ever had. You might get in the wrong door next time, forgetting you’re driving from the other side now. But that same door you opened to get in the wrong side, opens again. So, you can get out and walk around the car to get in the side you wanted. The side you needed to get in… to be able to go somewhere.
I’m not saying it’s going to be easy to set aside the habit, the distraction, or the busyness, next time a feeling needs to be felt. I’m saying it’s possible though. And the more you do it, the more familiar it will get, and the more comfortable you will be with it. Until it becomes second nature.
I allow for a lot more feelings now than I used to. I’ve got more to work on. And I always will.
I deserve it! You deserve it. We deserve all the good stuff. That’s why we are going to keep talking about it, and what it takes to get there.
Until next time guys, all the love. Good-bye for now, and we’ll speak again soon.